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Assassin misses the mindless entertainment mark

Legendary action star Bruce Willis takes his final bow in Assassin from Saban Films. Jesse Atlas makes his feature directing debut with the film he co-wrote with Aaron Wolfe.

As part of a covert, deadly mission to infiltrate the enemy, Valmora (Willis) heads a private military operation that invents futuristic microchip technology which empowers its agents to take over the bodies of unwitting victims to keep them under surveillance. Nevertheless, after a team member named Sebastian (Mustafa Shakir) is killed on a secret mission, Alexa (Nomzamo Mbatha), the wife of the deceased agent, steps in to bring the man responsible to justice.

Things take a turn, though, when Valmora convinces Alexa that Sebastian turned rogue and could be anywhere in plain sight, especially in the body of billionaire Adrian (Dominic Purcell). Alexa must unleash her military skill to discover who she can trust and bring down the bad guys. The film's director says "Assassin" is an exploration of identity. The evolution of drone warfare from piloting machinery to remotely inhabiting another person raises significant questions about what it means to be oneself.

Can we retain our identity when the face in the mirror is not our own? How do we navigate our psyche when cognitive dissociation becomes a daily routine? What kind of memory is imprinted when a complete stranger wraps you in an intimate embrace, and you feel their touch on skin that isn't yours?

While I respect the director's viewpoint on the film, this isn't the proper swan song that Willis deserves. For starters, action and sci fans will realize they have seen the plot before, most notably in the 2016 Kevin Costner flick Criminal. As much as the writers try to make this a pulp story laced with constant plot twists, it manifests as nonsensical deception that needs to take itself more seriously; the film loses all credibility, and the cast is wasted.

While Mr. Willis has had his share of stinkers over the years, he is pretty decent here. Nevertheless, Dominic Purcell is here for a check. Meanwhile, the immensely talented Nomzamo Mbatha and Mustafa Shakir are underwritten to the point that I almost had a Hooper X moment. I enjoy mindless action sci films as much as the next person. Sadly Assassin's shallowness, clichés, and off-put pace mean I can't recommend it.

Final Grade : D

ASSASSIN in theaters, on-demand, and digital on March 31, 2023.


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